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Why Executive Leaders Don't Need to Use Social

In this world of "digital business" and social technologies there is a rising crescendo of demands on executives to "become social" e.g. to become the Social CEO. And many executives are reacting to this pressure and are feeling the need to use social technologies and are (reluctantly) beginning to do so. But they are making a mistake.

It's not about need it's about mindset and belief

Executives and business leaders who are beginning to engage in social media because they feel that they need to are making a mistake because "need" isn't going to be sustainable or rewarding.

Think about getting fit - most people already know that they'd be better off by being in better physical shape - thinner, fitter, stronger and more flexible. They don't need more information about this, even though "more information" is often the main form of advertising about this issue. Even when offered free gym membership for a month most people will not take it up, and those that do take it up will not use it more than once if at all. And even more surprising is that for that small minority that do take it up and appear in the gym regularly it is patently clear by observing them at the gym that they are not serious. They are there to escape the nagging or are looking for a quick fix and not willing to do the work that is required to bring about long-term meaningful change in their physical shape. But they fully understand the "need" and that's why they are participating, but something is missing in their belief about the value of the effort.

Same goes for executives engaging with social technologies, whether these be internal social technologies such as Jive or IBM Connections, or social media. Those engaging because they simply feel that they need to are quickly seen to be doing exactly that - just as those at the gym who are looking for the quick fix are easily observed to not have their mind engaged so it is for executives on social media - even more so.

So what does it take to believe that engagement with social technologies is useful? Well we know what it does not take is one of the millions of "How to use Twitter for Executives". "How" isn't the problem, change doesn't happen from just knowing how to do something - in fact the knowledge you can from "how" sessions just gets shuffled back into your habitual behaviours.

Executives need to believe in the value of social for them

A behaviour is an acceptance of a belief, and often an unconscious belief e.g. social is a waste of time. Motivation involves both shifting beliefs, and creating new habitual behaviours, and lasting behaviour change occurs only when there is first a shift in the beliefs responsible for the behaviour. Therefore a belief change about the value of social technologies will trigger a new behaviour to match this new belief - and lead to a mindset of engagement which is sustainable.

How can this change of belief be brought about? There is probably no single answer - it depends on the individual just like the decision to become engaged in getting fit. Here are three possibilities:

  1. By reference to a peer who has fully changed their mindset and become engaged with social technologies, or by becoming involved with a "tribe" who has developed a business appreciation of the value of social technologies;
  2. By having some training around a specific point-issue which is important to you as an individual so that the learning is is meaningful, valuable and actionable; and / or
  3. By deploying your growth mindset to learn more about digital and social technologies to maximise and amplify your leadership traits.

The key to change is to listen to your internal dialogues while participating in any of the above activities and to work to adjust your beliefs to the extent that your habitual actions start to include engagement with social technologies. You will then be engaging based on a belief framework which will deliver sustainable change.

Some useful resources are these:

Cheryl Burgess is speaking at the Amplify Festival (June 1 - 5 2015).

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Walter Adamson 

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